For Zachary High’s Eric King, it was like a match made in heaven when he first began swimming.
That connection led to King developing a desire to push himself, and see how far he could go as a swimmer.
King will get a chance to see how far he has come when he competes at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Swimming Meet held Nov. 14-18 at SPAR Aquatic Center in Sulphur.
Preliminaries for Division I (Class 5A) are scheduled for 10 a.m., Friday with finals set for 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Now a junior, it will be his second consecutive appearance at the state meet, a long way from his beginnings as a transplanted middle schooler from the Northeast.
King qualified for the state meet in the 100-meter freestyle and 100 breaststroke at a Capital City Swim League meet in late September, and has been lowering his times ever since. On Oct. 28, at the Baton Rouge City Championship meet, King notched his best marks of the season, 49.67 in the 100 freestyle and 1:02.21 in the 100 breaststroke, good for third place in each event.
The time in the 100 breaststroke broke the old Zachary school record of 1:02.35, a validation of King’s passion for swimming.
“I came down here and one of my friends recommended I join a competition team in sixth grade,” King said. “Ever since then I’ve been swimming.”
King developed an instant love for the sport, and began training at Fennwood Hills Country Club under coach Julie Johnson. Both King and Johnson would end up at Zachary High two years later, King as a freshman and Johnson as a head-coach-in-waiting under former Zachary coach Lisa McGehee.
With a helping hand from Johnson, King began to see improvement.
“In eighth grade I really started to improve and I realized this may be the sport for me,” said King, who credits former Zachary swimmers Schyler Mire, Collin Dupuy and Austin Wittig for helping with his transition to a higher level of competition.
“They took me under their wing and the improvement I made under them and coach J, it just made me want to do more. I’ve been trying to get more pool time and just train more so I can get better times.”
More pool time has meant waking up for 5 a.m. swims three times a week, all in addition to the practice schedule he follows with the Zachary swim team in the afternoon. It adds up to about 12 hours a week that King will spend swimming.
“It's more than what my normal high school group does,” Johnson said of King’s dedication. “He knows the level of swimming he wants to compete at, and he knows the type of commitment it takes. He’s made the decision to train more than the rest of the team because he knows he needs to do that to meet his goals.”
Zachary High swimming records have provided plenty of goals for King, and he has made a habit of surpassing them. He currently holds five school records including top times in events such as the 200- and 500-meter freestyle, the 100 butterfly, and the 200 Individual Medley.
For the state meet, King has his sights set on Caleb Champagne’s 100 freestyle school mark of 48.27 set in 2010. He’s also set a goal of advancing to the eight-man final in both events he will swim.
“His goal is to make the 'A' final, the top eight in both of his events,” Johnson said. “Its going to be tough, but I think he’s up for the challenge. He’s definitely put the work in and has the right mindset. I think he can do it.”
Regardless of King’s results at the state meet, good or bad, it is unlikely to deter him from continuing to chase goals in the pool, a place where he feels in his element.
“I think that swimming has been a gift from God for me,” King said. “He’s really blessed me with the ability to go out and compete. Not only has it given me a place to compete, but its given me a place to escape.”